A Canadian Refugee In Mexico
Come on Down!
A number of years ago, I saw a cartoon that was funny because it completely reversed the conventional perspective. The caption said ‘Alien Abduction’ and the sketch showed a couple of rednecks stuffing an alien into the trunk of a car.
In some respects, our move from Muskoka, Canada to Jalisco, Mexico in June 2020 was like that. Conditioned as they are to think of Canada as the best place in the world in which to live, most people don’t consider that a move to a ‘developing country’ can offer a better life. However, that has certainly been the case for us.
A couple of weeks ago, I read online about a couple from Canada who had sold everything and were moving to Mexico. The comments to the article were a combination of those who thought it was a great idea and wanted to know how it turned out, on the one hand, and armchair ‘experts’ pontificating on all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, mostly having to do with visas and health care of course, on the other.
I realize that not everyone is in a position or willing to consider a move like this, however, in my experience, lack of knowledge doesn’t always keep the naysayers from having an opinion and expressing it…..often frequently and forcefully! It put me in mind of some of the uninformed pushback we received when we were looking into it and I resolved to try and do something to encourage like-minded people to give it a try. Hence this blog. Believe me, do it, you won’t be sorry.
Initially, we simply wanted to explore alternatives to escape the winter. Florida didn’t appeal for a number of reasons, so we thought we’d try Mexico. My wife had a friend who had been wintering in the Lake Chapala area in central Mexico south of Guadalajara for several years so, with her guidance and advice, we drove down with the dogs for 3 months in December 2019.
We rented a townhouse in a gated community that we found on AirBnB and thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that we decided to move down permanently and bought a house here during that visit. In March 2020, we returned to Canada to sell our house and discovered that the world had fallen off a cliff!
I was surprised by some people’s reaction to both our reconnaissance trip and when we decided to move. Certainly, some were happy and excited for us, but others ventured all manner of dubious opinions that were subsequently proven wrong.
We heard, “Mexico’s not safe; what about health care; Mexico’s not safe; the border’s closed, you won’t get in”. Oh, did I mention, “Mexico’s not safe”? It was pervasive. My own father was cutting out articles from the Toronto Star describing Mexico as a failed narco state and mailing them to me.
On the afternoon before we left to move down, I was at our local marina tidying up last minute details and some guy I didn’t know came up and said, “The border’s closed you know. You won’t get in.” I thought, but didn’t say, “Thanks, but that’s not actually helpful. The house is sold. I have no place to live. The furniture is on a truck halfway to Laredo. The car is packed to the roof including 2 dogs AND I don’t have visas yet (although I do have a plan for that). Bugger off!”
In any event, everything worked out fine; we made it, closed on the house and moved in. So what have the past 18 months been like? In a word, outstanding! In the first place, the weather is perfect. I’m told this area is rated #2 in the world for climate by National Geographic, after Nairobi, Kenya.
There must be 300 plus days of sun a year. I keep waiting for a miserable day to do work inside and it never comes. The temperature is typically low to mid 60’s in the morning, mid to high 70’s in the afternoon with low humidity. Maybe a bit cooler in December and a bit warmer in May. The rainy season lasts from June to October, but even then it hardly ever rains during the day, only at night. Just like Camelot! The house doesn’t have a furnace or air conditioning and doesn’t need either.
The house we bought is in a gated development, larger but less expensive than our house in Canada and built to a high standard about 15 years ago. Or, as I tend to think of it, twice the house for half the price. It has a jaw-dropping view of the lake and surrounding mountains (see above) and sits on a half-acre of lush gardens which would have caused my late mother, who loved gardening, to lose her mind!
We have fruit trees, banana plants, palm trees, cacti, and bougainvillea plus about a dozen poinsettia bushes just now coming into bloom which will stay in flower until March. I think you could plant a pencil in Mexico and it would grow! The gardener and housekeepers come weekly. Our HOA fees are $1000 per year and annual property taxes are less than $500. We put in a lovely pool for about half the cost in Canada and use it all year.
The food in Mexico is excellent; spicy or not as you like. (Taco Bell should be prohibited from labeling their fare as Mexican!) We eat out 3 or 4 times a week in great restaurants, most with courtyards or patios for about $20 for two for lunch and up to double that for dinner, all-in including tip.
Mexico has taken a more nuanced and pragmatic approach to lockdowns and the pandemic than Canada, for which I am eternally grateful. Beyond that, my wife has told me not to talk about it. (I think she’s afraid I might lose control and start shouting ‘Freedom!’ like Mel Gibson in Braveheart or something!) Our grocery bill is about $100 per week total. We have Walmart, Costco, numerous bodegas, stand-alone butchers and bakeries, and farmers’ markets.
The Driscoll raspberries and blueberries that sell in Canada for $5 for a 6-oz package are grown here. We pay about $2 per liter, year-round.
Our cell phones are $13 each per month for unlimited talk and text to Canada, the US and Mexico. We have unlimited, high-speed, fiber-optic internet for $40 per month that also covers us for TV. My wife gets her hair done with a pedicure once a month for $35 including tip. I get my hair cut for less than $10.
A few months ago, I bought a 1997 Classic VW Beetle, what the kids call ‘an antique punch-buggy’. They were manufactured here until 2004, about 20 years after they were no longer available north of the border. We didn’t really need a second car, but if you could live here and drive that, why wouldn’t you? With my straw hat, I look like a wannabe Mexican and I don’t care!
There are several thousand Canadians and Americans who live in the immediate area and many more who come down for the winter each year. So much so, that one can easily get by with rudimentary or even no Spanish. We live well on just our combined CPP/OAS and only tap our savings for extraordinary expenses. We pay cash for virtually everything and rarely use the credit card. I even took a ‘gangster roll’ of $62,000Mx (about $3800) to pay for the VW!
In future posts, I plan to talk more about various aspects of the move and our life here. If anyone reading this has any questions, please respond and I’ll try to address them. Remember though, my comments are based solely on what we have learned and experienced throughout this process and are not a substitute for additional research and consultation with experts where appropriate, as we have done for some things. In the meantime, check out mexperience.com and sign up for their monthly newsletter. And, with apologies to The Price Is Right, ‘Come on Down!’
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